Flash floods: Australia issues evacuation orders
The Australian government has asked thousands of people across Australia’s southeast to evacuate their homes including some in a western suburb of Melbourne, after two days of incessant rains triggered flash flooding and fast-moving waters burst river banks.
“Our river systems… are reaching major flood levels at various times over today, through the weekend and through next week,” Victoria emergency services chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch told reporters.
Large parts of Victoria state, southern New South Wales and the northern regions of the island state of Tasmania were pounded by an intense weather system with some taking more than a month’s worth of rain since late Wednesday, officials said.
Many rivers in Victoria, including the Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s west and the Goulburn further north, reached major flood levels, prompting the night-time evacuation of residents.
The Goulburn River at Seymour, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Melbourne, has peaked above the record 7.64 metres (25 ft) reached in May 1974, data showed. More than 200 flood rescues were conducted by emergency crews.
“In terms of property damage, road, public infrastructure and the sheer volume of water, this is going to set new records,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at a news conference.
Andrews said a decision would be made on Saturday about reopening the state’s purpose-built COVID-19 quarantine facility, closed last week after Australia scrapped isolation rules, to shelter flood-impacted residents.
Also Read: Australia Floods: Thousand Residents Flee Sydney Homes
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the federal government stood ready to provide assistance to the flood-stricken states.
“There are already ADF (Australian Defence Force) personnel on the ground in Victoria … this is a difficult time, my heart goes out to those communities affected at this time,” Albanese said.
About 1,000 residents of Wedderburn, a small town 200 km (125 miles) north of Melbourne, were ordered to evacuate urgently due to the potential breach of a nearby dam.
Agnico Eagle’s (AEM.TO) Fosterville gold mine, Victoria’s largest, paused all non-essential operations, the company said.
In Tasmania, the flooding crisis intensified with fresh evacuation orders on Friday, while hundreds of residents in southern New South Wales spent the night in evacuation centres.
Rains eased by Friday afternoon but the weather bureau has warned of another potential wild weather system next week.
Devastating floods have repeatedly struck Australia’s east coast since early last year because of a multi-year La Nina weather phenomenon, which brings more rain.